There are a few dates on minor league promotional calendars considered untouchable. Opening Day, Fourth of July and Friday Night Fireworks are revenue generators critical to a team’s success at the gate. Not far behind those dates is Mother’s Day, a new ballpark holiday highlighted by pink jerseys and breast cancer awareness-themed promotions.
However Mother’s Day was spoiled yesterday for many teams in the Midwest and along the East Coast by rainy weather that forced postponements or resulted in underwhelming attendance figures.
A dozen games were called off yesterday, including five in the already hard hit low Class A Midwest League. Wisconsin and Clinton managed to play yesterday, but combined for just 1,200 fans—roughly half of their average attendance and certainly well below weekend-date expectations.
Triple-A Indianapolis was forced to pull the plug on its most comprehensive Mother’s Day promotion and one of its most integrated events of the year. The team had planned to give away picture frames to the first 4,000 mothers in attendance and carnations to the first 500 in the ballpark. Similar to teams around organized baseball, players were to wear pink jerseys that would later be auctioned off to benefit a breast cancer charity—the Indians’ event was to raise money for the Young Survival Coalition.
The Indians had worked with the Indianapolis Star newspaper’s sister website, Indymoms.com, to promote the event and the team was expecting a large turnout. Though the game is rescheduled as part of a doubleheader tonight, the promotions will not go on. Indians director of promotions Chris Herndon said they hope to incorporate the events into a later game this season, but had yet to select a date.
"We did have a lot planned yesterday and were looking forward to it," Herndon said. "This was one of the more integrated promotions we had planned and we were looking forward to seeing how it would turn out . . . We had a lot of different promotional efforts tied in together, and a mother specific promotional media. I’m not sure other markets have something like Indymoms.com.
"There is a cultural element that you have to overcome in convincing families to bring mom out to the ballpark (for Mother’s Day), that this is the way to treat her to her day."
Herndon said the Indians typically use promotions as a way to boost fan experience, and not necessarily as a means to bring fans to the ballpark. However they were hoping that such an aggressively promoted event like Mother’s Day would be an attendance-driver.
"We think a lot of our promotions have affect on the backside, exciting people to come back again," Herndon said. "There are some exceptions where a promotion night might drive attendance . . . That’s what we were hoping for. To take a holiday like this and target it specifically to families to get them out here."
Midwest League affiliates Burlington, Dayton, South Bend, Quad Cities and West Michigan postponed games in what has been a cold and soggy start to the season for the region. The league has already lost 34 openings this season; only Great Lakes has managed to play all 16 of its home games.
Heavy storms forced high Class A Carolina League affiliates Winston-Salem and Lynchburg to postpone their games. Wilmington drew 3,136—well below its 4,273 average—while Kinston managed a paltry 420 fans on Sunday.